Analysis, design and planning of child protection in humanitarian action Syria – Syrian Arab Republic

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ABSTRACT

In December 2021, World Vision (WV) Syria response undertook a context analysis to identify specific child protection needs and challenges faced by children in its areas of operation in the northwest of Syria (NWS) and to better understand the root causes and risk factors. WV’s Analysis, Design and Planning Tool for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (CPHA ADAPT) was used. The tool included grassroots community conversations with children and adults, combined with a policy review and analysis of child protection challenges in the NWS. This in-depth understanding of existing child protection issues and systemic gaps was sought to inform programmatic priorities, program design and intervention strategies to address violence against children (VAC) in the NWS.

A total of 112 community members (53 female/59 male) participated in the CPHA ADAPT assessment, including 72 girls and boys (36 female/36 male) and eight local child protection actors from Idlib and Azaz districts in the NWS (see ‘Community conversations with children and adults’ on p.9 for details).

Data from community conversations revealed notable differences in the opinions of children and adults. Adults are more likely to rationalize some forms of ACC. For example, in cases of child marriage, many adult participants believe that child marriage protects girls from other forms of violence. Parents may also expect children to support their family and may not see child labor as a problem. In particular, many parents believe that through work, children become responsible adults, and that this is fundamentally acceptable because it “does good for the children”. Assessment data conducted by WV shows that many of the pressures, stresses and difficulties caused by the ongoing conflict and associated economic stress have contributed to the adoption of negative coping mechanisms involving their children.

In addition, the analysis showed that new child protection concerns have emerged due to increased vulnerabilities, inequalities and poverty caused by conflict and economic turbulence, including exposure children on drugs in schools. In some cases, adults were unaware of some of these serious protection issues affecting their children. Nevertheless, in all groups, participants mentioned that parents and caregivers are stressed and feel depressed themselves and therefore lack the emotional capacity to support their children. Community members also mentioned living in a generally unsafe environment with a high level of exposure to violence which adds to their stress. The lack of employment opportunities and access to money, in addition to the uncertainty of the future, hampers families’ ability to break the cycle of poverty and overcome their sense of hopelessness.

This report also considers the rule of law in this fragile and jurisdictionally contested context. Participants suggested that limitations on the rule and effective exercise of law, combined with the paucity of relevant laws regarding BCAs, also contributed to incidents of violence. In fact, the policy review and analysis conducted as part of the assessment reveals that Syria’s legal and regulatory framework for ending VAC reaches approximately 13% of the total threshold, while the willingness of NWS local authorities to implement current policies is at an even lower level – reaching only 9% of the total threshold (“Policy Review and Analysis”, p. 21, for details). The policy review and analysis took into account the minimum provisions of Syrian law and policy necessary to end VAC, in line with those set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRCE ). This was mindful of the complex realities of the Syrian context, where different actors, including from different states, are engaged in regulating child protection practices across Syria, while recognizing that the Syrian Arab Republic, in as a signatory to the CRC, is ultimately accountable to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for the implementation of its commitments throughout the country, including in areas controlled by non-state armed actors. Without clear accountability for VAC actions and without clear mechanisms, rules and laws that help communities understand what is legal and illegal, preventing and responding to issues of violence will remain weak and ineffective. Laws and policies are essential elements of a child protection system, providing a common point of reference for all actors, including local NWS authorities, civil society and communities, potentially enabling them to work together to end VCE.

Based on the results of the CPHA ADAPT analysis, we identified low levels of trust in local authorities and inadequate reporting mechanisms as requiring urgent action. Specifically, additional steps should be taken to create child-friendly reporting pathways in places frequented by children such as schools, health clinics, alternative care and community centers, thereby creating more opportunities for people to openly report incidents of violence. Actors should strengthen and raise awareness of reporting and referral mechanisms at the local level and include children in the process of designing and implementing these mechanisms. Alternatively, children may experience violence but do not consider it ‘serious’ enough to consult relevant service providers and therefore receive little or no help in responding to the violence they encounter.

Overall, the lack of action to address ECV in a child’s social and institutional environment in the NWS contributes to the current context in which ECV goes largely unnoticed, leaving affected children to suffer its consequences unaided. nor hope for change. All actors, including authorities, civil society and communities, must work together and with determination to end VAC.

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